The other day I was leafing through my copy of The Gentlemen’s Clubs of London wondering which I would have joined had I been offered the chance. And that got me thinking about the clubs here in town. None of which I seem to be in danger of having to choose to join. Besides, I reason to myself, there are really only about a dozen people I like. I am something of a joiner, if not much of a member. I was the “ghost brother” in my fraternity in college, having joined and quietly faded away. But still, there must be something to this club thing. Mustn’t there?
The clubs did, and do, serve a purpose. A club gives you refuge. One of the primary purposes for the clubs of London was to provide gentlemen with a place to stay and dine while in town settling affairs. The rest of the time, the gentleman was probably in the country at his manor, shooting something. Having dined, he will need a place to wile away the hours (or nap) and will head for the quieter club of which he is also a member. And then there are the discreet places in which he may discuss business, dispatches or affairs of the secret services. In short, one’s clubs are one’s safe houses in an increasingly fast-paced and disorderly world.
Then, during a luncheon with Mr. W and The Architect, the topic came up. The three of us decided that we were tired of meeting at restaurants once a week for lunch and what we really needed was our own club. Where to look?
There used to be The American Club in London (95 Piccadilly, W1) which granted membership to Americans stationed in England, but that’s a bit far for lunch. Wooster had the Drones, but that’s fictional and also a bit far for lunch. Here in town there is The Commonwealth Club, (The club) which hasn’t cast so much of a glance in my direction (although I have been through the service entrance when a big band friend played a party and attended a swell Christmas affair there this year.) There are a number of country clubs, but I don’t golf or play tennis or like public pools much. Online, there is a fine sounding Sporting Life Society, but that would leave me lunching alone at the computer, again…. and sport of that sort really doesn’t appeal to the other two guys (the blog is a fun read and has a wonderful thesis statement — good work fellas!)
Nope, it looked like slim pickings.
So we took the easy way out and started our own. Now the three of us have Churchill’s (pictured above) or The Churchill Club, we’re not sure which.
Membership is strictly limited to those who have two hours for lunch, can abide a good salad and provide a bottle of champagne for consumption during afternoon hours. A dress code is not strictly enforced, with socks being optional during the warmer months. Resident Brits are welcome to apply, especially if they are half American, are lots of fun, and can stand for the champagne every once in awhile.
I’ve just ordered us some very elegant spotted bow ties so we can recognize ourselves in public. But for a true club experience, what we really need is staff. Applications now being accepted.
22 thoughts on “A Club of One’s Own”
Used to stay at the Sloane Club in London when we went up for business. Also used to go to the now-defunct ladies-only Parrot Club at the former Basil Street Hotel. Ahhh for the good old days.
Excellent post, and what a fine idea that was, establishing a club in your own handsome dining room.( Wasn’t it Groucho Marx who said that he’d never dream of belonging to a Club that would have him as a member ? )
That book you referred to, Gentleman’s Clubs of London, has been collecting dust on my shelves~but I remember thinking how pleasant it would be to belong to a club in St James’s, perhaps Boodles or Whites or Brooks, a short list based entirely on architecture. When you read the diaries of James Lees Milne he seems forever to be spending the night at Brooks’s, and his descriptions make it sound quite an enviable way of life. Spotted bow ties? Order an extra one for me,please.
Fairfax, you’re livin’. I’m so pleased. We may start a women’s auxiliary as our wives are beginning to complain that we are having more fun then they are.
TW, that’s not my dining room (mine is nowhere near as nicely done as it is still evolving.) The room is part of a duplex owned by The Architect who renovated it as his bachelor’s pad and now keeps it for out of town guests and friends who are between houses during renovations. He has graciously volunteered it for the duration.
Yes, that was Groucho. Ironic that he now has a club named for him.
Hmm…my powers of observation seem to be failing me! I could have sworn
I saw those place mats in another post, so naturally assumed it was your dining room.
See, now you have the whole “women” issue to deal with. One of the Richard Jury mysteries has them them bounding around Melrose Plant’s club in London. A member dies in a chair and it takes a while for folks to notice. Not that that would happen at your lively refuge!
I bought the same placemats (one word) at the Army and Navy in London more than 20 years ago, and still use them regularly. I like the dining room, looks like a place one would enjoy spending several hours in good company!
For a virtual visit to the club, there’s nothing like popping in on Lord Peter Wimsey (via DVD). “The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” comes to mind—seems all episodes of BBC series involved a visit to someone’s club! (Complete series is available on DVD.)
Martha Grimes is another guilty pleasure of mine. I should have used Melrose Plant as a nom de plume. Which book is that? Not sure I’ve read it, but with my scattered mind….
TW, you may have. My friend has made a gift of them to the other gentleman before.
Hello Happy to Oblige and Nell E.,
Thank you both for reading.
I can’t stand that word, there must be something other than “placemats.” “Chargers” had a better copywriter. I tend to ruin them regularly. My friend Mr. W. has just purchased some round black ones rimmed with gold. Very elegant. Classic never goes out of style.
Nell E. I had forgotten Lord Whimsey and must revisit the series soon. Thank you for the reminder!
Two hours for lunch and a bottle of your best champagne and a wicked home-made dressing – and clean socks. Count me in.
( However, I am a girl, but I can sport a great cut suit and wear a mustache, bowler and cane a la Groucho.)
My sister-in-law attended my husbands Bachelorette party – the most handsome of all, bedecked in a suit and mustache!
Mrs. PVE, we will always make exceptions for charming and elegant guests. No moustache required. But ever since “The Unbearable Longness of Movie” (Mrs.E’s words), I’ve had a thing for women in bowlers. Your sister-in-law sounds fun and a husband who had a bachelorette party! Why didn’t I think of that….
Never chase a good time…the Sporting Life is all around you, wherever you find yourself.
I wish I had your advice whilst at school. It would have saved many an evening.
I was just thinking about your site; I’m sure you know of Fitzroy Maclean and Patrick Leigh Fermor?
Sorry about place mats when it ought to have been placemats, Happy , it was purely the fault of Macintosh spell check which does not recognize it as one word!
Having launched the sub-subject, I admit to a sinking feeling at the sight of placemats rather than a tablecloth. There must be a better solution.
E&E, can you reveal Brett’s site?
TW, makes no difference at all, think nothing of it.
Click the link to The Sporting Life Society above. Wonderful mission statement.
Woody Allen also used the line in “Annie Hall”.
I need to sell the place
Well, let’s start working. Send the particulars and I’ll be happy to announce it.